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Anemia Causes and Risk Factors

Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when the body does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs), a common type of blood cell which responsible to carry oxygen around the body.

If you have anemia, your body does not have enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to the body. As a result, people with anemia (anemic) often feel tired or weakness. Severe or long-lasting anemia can cause damage to the heart, brain and even death.

Anemia Causes and Risk Factors

Anemia can be caused by many factors, but there are three main causes of anemia:

  1. Blood loss
  2. Inadequate RBCs production
  3. Excessive RBCs destruction

Blood loss

Blood loss is the most common cause of anemia, particularly iron deficiency anemia. Blood loss can be short term or persist over time. If excessive blood lost, the body will lose enough red blood cells and lead to anemia.

Inadequate RBCs production

There are several risk factors that can cause inadequate RBCs production. These include:

  • Diet
    A diet that has lack or no iron, folic acid (folate), and vitamin B12 can cause your body not making enough red blood cells. Iron is an essential mineral to make RBCs.
  • Chronic Disease
    Chronic diseases, such as cancer and kidney disease can cause body unable to produce enough red blood cells.
    People who have HIV/ AIDS also may develop anemia due to infection or drugs used to treat the disease.
  • Pregnancy
    During the first 6 months of pregnancy, the liquid portion of women’s blood increases faster than the number of red blood cells. This dilutes the blood and can cause anemia.
  • Hormone
    Our body needs hormone erythropoietin to make red blood cells. This hormone helps stimulates the bone marrow to make RBCs. Low levels of this hormone can cause anemia.
  • Medications
    Some medications such as antibiotics, antiseizure drugs, cancer treatments or exposure to radiation can cause damage to bone marrow. If the bone marrow is damaged, it can’t make enough new red blood cells to replace the dead ones. This is called Aplastic Anemia.

Excessive RBCs destruction

Anemia caused by excessive RBCs destruction can be classified into several forms of anemia, they are as follow:

  • Hemolytic Anemia
    Hemolytic Anemia occurs when red blood cells are being destroyed and removed from the bloodstream before their normal lifespan is up. The normal lifespan of RBCs is 120 days. In hemolytic anemia, it’s much shorter. This form of anemia can be due to viral infections or certain medications such as antibiotics or antiseizure drugs.
  • Sickle cell Anemia
    Sickle cell Anemia is a severe form of anemia. It usually occurs when a person inherits two abnormal genes (one from each parent) that cause their red blood cell to change its shape.
    Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder that mostly affects people of African ancestry. However, it also occurs in other ethnic groups, including Caucasian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent.
  • Thalassemia
    Thalassemia is a form of anemia in which RBCs are rapidly destroyed and iron is deposited in the skin and vital organs. It is cause the body to make fewer healthy red blood cells and less hemoglobin than normal. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen to all parts of the body. It mostly affects people of Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian descent, is marked by abnormal and short-lived RBCs.

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